As I've mentioned before, Austin Film Festival has a screenwriters conference to accompany its weeklong program of films. In fact, the event used to be better known for its writing panels and sessions than for the films that screened. I'm not a screenwriter so I don't attend many panels anymore, but this year I decided to sit in on on the "Writing Family Films" panel.
Why did I choose a panel on children's and family films? I could have gone with some friends to a session down the hall about comedy writing, featuring Michael Showalter and Michael Ian Black, which I'm told was quite entertaining. I don't have any kids, and I've never written anything that was aimed toward a younger audience. But I've always enjoyed watching quality children's films (although I often feel like the only unaccompanied adult in the theater), and I wanted to hear more about the ways in which writers approach material intended for kids.
The panelists (in the order pictured above) were Bob Dolman, who wrote the screenplay for Willow and adapted and directed How to Eat Fried Worms; Susannah Grant, who worked on the scripts for Pocohontas, Ever After (a favorite of mine) and the upcoming Charlotte's Web; and Mike Rich, who wrote Finding Forrester, The Rookie, and The Nativity Story. University of Texas screenwriting instructor Stuart Kelban moderated the session. The small conference room at the Stephen F. Austin hotel was well-filled with writers and other film-industry people.